Bradley Nicholson’s time has come.
An executive chef told me a story a few years ago about how when he went to offer a line cook the position of sous chef, the young man turned him down. A nascent restaurateur had approached the cook and asked him to run the kitchen at his new restaurant. He accepted. That restaurant closed within two years.
Such is the life in an oversaturated restaurant world where staffing is difficult and some people may be given chances for which they’re not quite prepared.
If any young chef was likely to get poached at the middle part of this decade, it was Bradley Nicholson. The Jackson, Miss., native rose through the ranks at Barley Swine under chef-owner Bryce Gilmore to the level of executive sous chef. He had the talent and the education to make the next leap, but he chose to grow organically at one of the city’s top restaurants, working there from 2011-16, until the opportunity to train in Copenhagen and work at a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco finally lured him from Austin.
He’s returned to the city where his culinary career first flourished to take the role of executive chef at the forthcoming luxury hotel at the Commodore Perry Estate in central Austin, the first in Texas for the Auberge Resorts Collection brand. Nicholson is joined in the move by executive pastry chef Susana Querejazu, his wife and fellow Barley Swine alumnus.
Lutie’s Garden Restaurant will source from a farm on site to create seasonal, vegetable-driven dishes, with an emphasis on aged proteins and fermentation. While there are no details on the menu, Nicholson states there will be "simple presentations of ingredients that are meticulously cared for." The restaurant is slated to open in the spring. For more details on the hotel, read American-Statesman real estate reporter Shonda Novak’s story at statesman.com.
Nicholson and Querejazu also will oversee banquets and special events on the 10-acre property managed by Auberge, which operates hotels in Aspen, Telluride, Fiji and elsewhere.
Since leaving Austin in 2017, Nicholson has served as executive sous chef at tasting-menu restaurant Birdsong in San Francisco, the city to which he moved to work at Benu. Querejazu’s time in San Francisco included working as pastry sous chef at Quince Restaurant and three-Michelin-starred Saison.
The chefs, who said they were ready to return to Austin before they even left in 2017, believe their time working abroad and cooking for and serving an international clientele in a market as exemplary as San Francisco gave them the confidence and the tools to lead their own restaurant. And, with having to serve both a hotel audience and develop a personal and unique local restaurant, the couple thinks the restaurant should give them plenty of opportunitie to flex their creativity.
"I think this property is perfect for us," Nicholson said.
Luxury hotel set for spring debut at Austin’s storied Commodore Perry Estate